New York Herald Tribune Book Review, August 19, 1951
On the Books & On an Author
By John K. Hutchens
J. D. Salinger
Shortly before his "Catcher in the Rye" appeared, Jerome David Salinger not only asked his publisher's office (Little, Brown) to send him no reviews of his novel but actually made them promise not to.
"That" said a friend of his the other day, "will give you an idea of the kind of guy he is," together with the Salinger reaction to his publisher's phone call informing him that the Book-of-the-Month Club has chosen "Catcher" as its midsummer selection.
"That's good, is it?" said Mr. Salinger.
Later he asked that there be no special publicity to-do about him, "because I might get to believe it." As a matter of fact, he was inclined to be annoyed by the picture of him that filled the back of the book's jacket. "Too big", he said.
He was born in New York City on Jan. 1, 1915,(1919 ?) went to military school at fifteen, and started writing stories there - wrote them under the bedcovers at night, by flashlight.
He went to several colleges, graduated from none of them, and passed a year in Austria and Poland, presumably to learn the export business. He kept writing, if not selling. In 1939 he was in Whit Burnett's short-story class at Columbia, and his first published short story, "The Young Folks," appeared in the Burnett "Story" magazine in March, 1940.
Mr. Burnett recalls with some pride his share in the auspices of that debut, and has another pleasant memory of Mr. Salinger. In 1945, by which time the writer was selling regularly to the large-paying "slicks," Collier's and The Post, there arrives in the "Story" office his check for $250 for the help of other writers. It had been sent from Europe, where Mr. Salinger was then with the 4th Division, Counter-Intelligence Corps. The check helped finance "Story's" armed services writing contest.
The first Salinger story in The New Yorker, where a number of his greatest admirers first became aware of him, was "Slight Rebellion Off Madison," sold in 1941 but not published until 1946. Right now, according to a Salinger authority, one of his best stories is locked away in the safe of a woman's magazine which paid a lot for it but for some reason is nervous about using it. His thirty published stories will presently appear in book form, it's said, which will emphasize another of his talents - i.e. a gift for titles. "For Esmé -With Love and Squalor" is probably the best known of them.
He works with "infinite labor, infinite patience and infinite thought for the technical aspects of what he is writing," according to his friend William Maxwell, of The New Yorker, who in a recent article quotes him as saying:
"I think writing is a hard life. But it's brought to me enough happiness that I don't think I'd ever deliberately dissuade anybody (if he had talent) from taking it up. The compensations are few, but when they come, if they come, they're very beautiful."